Rangers secured back-to-back home wins over Celtic for the first time in seven years with a dominant and determined display against the Scottish champions.
Steven Gerrard’s side got the ideal start as James Tavernier’s free-kick deceived goalkeeper Scott Bain with only two minutes gone at Ibrox.
Celtic were left angry as Jon Flanagan escaped with a yellow card for an elbow in the face of Scott Brown.
Rangers took advantage as Scott Arfield finished off a fine, flowing move.
The derby win takes the hosts to within six points of their city rivals, but with the title already returning to Celtic Park, it more importantly was a signal of intent ahead of next season as Rangers secured a sixth consecutive win.
It also ends Celtic’s 12-game unbeaten run since Valencia ended their Europa League hopes – and a run of 16 without loss in the league since their December defeat at Ibrox.
Celtic rattled, Rangers rampant
While the title was long won by the visitors, there is no such thing as a meaningless Old Firm derby and there was still plenty more on the line as the players emerged into a sun-kissed Ibrox.
Neil Lennon is still trying to win a permanent contract with Celtic after taking over as interim manager following Brendan Rodgers’ departure to Leicester City.
Counterpart Gerrard is out to prove both his worth in his first managerial job – and that the December win over their city rivals was no flash in the pan. It didn’t take long for the former England captain’s side to take an early lead and help his case.
Tavernier had already found the net 16 times this season – 14 from the penalty spot – before the right-back’s in-swinging free-kick whipped past Bain as it skimmed clear of a sea of heads and nestled in the far corner of the net.
Celtic were rattled. Shorn of the injured James Forrest and Kieran Tierney, rested ahead of the Scottish Cup final, and adopting a back three, Lennon’s side lacked the width to trouble a blue tide feverishly chasing down anything resembling a Celtic shadow.
Gerrard had decided against restoring top scorer Alfredo Morelos to the starting line-up on the Colombian’s return from a suspension resulting from his red card in the last Old Firm derby.
In his absence, Jermain Defoe, the veteran on loan from Bournemouth, has formed a fruitful partnership with Arfield and the pair responded by giving the Celtic backline a torrid afternoon.
Defoe’s dummy after Glen Kamara cleverly shrugged off Brown to thread a ball towards the Celtic penalty box set up the former Burnley midfielder to slot home the second goal.
Oliver Burke should have reduced the arrears late on when goalkeeper Wes Foderingham was able to beat away the on-loan West Bromwich Albion winger’s close-range drive, which was Celtic’s first shot on target after 83 minutes.
However, it seemed like the only thing that was going to prevent a Rangers win was a return to the indiscipline that led to three players being sent off for clashes involving Brown in that March defeat at Celtic Park.
Indeed, referee Kevin Clancy, taking charge of his first Old Firm derby, could have changed the course of the game had he decided on a harsher punishment for Flanagan after the defender’s forearm smash in the Celtic captain’s face as they awaited a corner with just a goal in the game.
The talk before kick-off was about Rangers’ decision not to give Celtic a guard of honour in their first game since retaining an eighth consecutive title.
Lennon’s side certainly not did deserve one in the wake of a disjointed performance as Rangers enjoyed a deserved ovation from home support, encouraged by what may lie ahead next season.